Golf / Sports

Steve Stricker will assist at Ryder Cup

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Steve Stricker's cellphone rang last week and he didn't recognize the number so he let it go to voicemail.

Then he listened to the message ... from Tom Watson.

"I said, 'Oh (expletive), I better call him back,' " Stricker said with a laugh. "So I called him right back and he gave me the good news."

Watson, captain of the U.S. Ryder Cup team, was calling to ask if Stricker would serve as his third and final vice captain for the biennial matches, Sept. 23-28 at Gleneagles in Perthshire, Scotland.

Watson previously had named Andy North and Raymond Floyd assistant captains. That means two of the four men who will lead the U.S. team against Europe -- North and Stricker -- live in Madison, Wis.

"Yeah, a couple cheeseheads on the team," Stricker said. "It'll be a lot of fun."

Watson introduced Stricker at a news conference Wednesday, the day before the start of the 96th PGA Championship.

"What Steve brings is a great familiarity with the players who are on the Tour right now," Watson said. "He's played against them, played with them, has played with them on the Ryder Cup teams and the Presidents Cup teams. So he brings a great deal of understanding of who these players are and their capabilities."

Stricker, 47, played on the 2008, 2010 and 2012 Ryder Cup teams and has a 3-7-1 record in 11 matches.

It is still mathematically possible for him to make the 2014 team, but he would likely need to win the PGA Championship. If it happened, he'd relinquish his vice captain duties and play.

"I've got one more shot left," Stricker said.

"You're darned right you do," Watson said.

But winning the PGA is a longshot. Stricker revealed after a nine-hole practice round with Tiger Woods that he is dealing with a debilitating hip injury.

"It's a torn labrum in the left hip joint," he said. "There's arthritis in there, inflammation and some fluid. I haven't seen the report. I just heard from the radiologist and he gave my doctor the lowdown.

"I'll just get through this week and go home and see what I have to do once I get home."

Stricker would prefer to avoid surgery and try to rehabilitate the hip. He's played with a herniated disk in his neck for several years.

But this latest injury doesn't put him in a good frame of mind going into the PGA.

"I think I'm lacking a little strength in this left hip and it shows up every once in a while where I'm not getting through the shot very well," he said. "We'll see how it goes (in the first round) 1/8Thursday3/8. I'll be all right. I'll get it around."

No matter how he plays at Valhalla, he'll be a member of the U.S. team that will try to win back the Ryder Cup. Europe has won the competition five of the last six times. Two years ago, the Europeans stormed back in Sunday singles to win at Medinah Country Club in suburban Chicago.

"It still stings," Stricker said. "I know it still stings me."

North said he and Watson started talking about Stricker as a possible assistant captain a year ago but wanted to wait to see how he would play this year.

"He is beloved by all these players, which is really cool," North said. "I can't tell you how much I have leaned on him the last 18 months, asking about stuff."

North said Stricker had the right makeup to be a Ryder Cup captain someday, even though Stricker doesn't satisfy the unwritten rule that a player must have won a major championship to be considered for the U.S. captaincy.

"I think it depends who you are," North said. "The nice thing is that this leadership group will be a lot different than then last three or four on how things get handled. I think that's very valuable for Steve to see because he's got a chance to be captain sometime down the road."

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